A vision of the by-gone the sloop-of-war “Portsmouth” of the old navy
Here is a sight the like of which never will be seen again — the U. S. sloop-of-war “Portsmouth” at anchor and drying out her sails.
An honorable record did this old corvette leave behind her. Of the type of vessel that had fought in the War of 1812, she had gone through the Mexican War, and had chased and captured many a slaver.
But a year or so ago, she was still afloat as the training-ship of the New Jersey state militia.
She has every sail up except her head-sails and studding sails.
As can be seen at a glance, she was a very lofty craft, and though clewed up, she has her sky-sails, her royals, her topgallant-sails, her topsails, set on every mast.
“Excellent, whether sailing, steering, working, scudding, lying to, or riding at anchor in a seaway, she sometimes got her sternboard in stays.”
With this single exception, reported Commander Armstrong, “she possesses the finest qualities of any ship I ever sailed in; rolls as easy as a cradle, and stands up under her canvas like a church.”
Lying under her stern is the captain's gig; her other boats seem to have been called away; probably one of the watches has gone ashore.
Few annals in the history of the United States
are of greater and more compelling interest than those connected with the achievement of its sailors.
The descendants of Drake
, led by John Paul Jones
, and other illustrious naval heroes in the days of lofty spars and topsails, made a name for themselves both on the sea and on the lasting scrolls of history.
Their records, penned by historians and novelists, form brilliant pages in American literature.
Therefore, it was not strange that a conflict in which officers and seamen of the same race and speech, graduates of the same historic Naval Academy and sailing the same seas and along the same shores, met in heroic struggle, should form a story second to none in its fascination and interest.
The Civil War ships and the men who fought them are distinctive in naval history, not for immensity of single battles or extent of total destruction, but for diversity of action, the complete realization of the ironclad as a fighting vessel, and the development of the torpedo as a weapon of destruction.
Readers are fortunate in finding, at the outset of this volume, the scholarly appreciation by Admiral Chadwick
of the essential part played by the navies in the war, while the battles at sea and on inland waters are described by Mr. Barnes
with a vividness possible only to a naval historian to whom the sea and its sailors long have been objects of sympathetic study.
The photographic record of the great American conflict
is particularly striking in this volume.
Never before has there been assembled such a pictorial and actual record of fleets and sailors, Union and Confederate.
The stately frigate with walls of live-oak, the newly born ironclad, the swift blockade-runner, the commerce-destroying cruiser, which left its indelible mark on the American
merchant marine no less than on international law, and last, but not least, the actors in scenes of the great naval drama appear on the pages that follow, in an illustrated “catalogue of the ships” that even Homer
in his stately Iliad could have envied.